Last Tuesday (7th December) a new language Bill was introduced into the French National Assembly that aims to give greater rights to the languages of the French state, including Breton.
The ‘Regional’ Language Bill (développement des langues et cultures régionales) aims to establish a greater level of linguistic rights for speakers of ‘regional’ languages and will bring the French state in line with European legal norms. The Bill, if successful, will include a state guarantee for the teaching of Breton to children and could could potentially have a huge impact on the revival of the Breton language, which according to some predictions is loosing an estimated 10 000 speakers a year.
In a recent report by CNN News, following the publication of UNESCO’s Atlas of World Languages in Danger which classified Breton as ‘Severely endangered’, the head of Ofis ar Brezhoneg (Breton Language Office), Fulup Jakez said:
“The Breton language is the main aspect of our culture, our identity…If we lose our language we lose everything.”
According to Ofis ar Brezhoneg, at the beginning of the 20th century there were almost 2 million people who spoke Breton, but according to UNESCO that number has now declined to almost 200 000 speakers. Most Breton speakers are in their 70’s or older and the language is decreasing at an incredible rate, despite some schools teaching the Breton language.
Those antagonistic towards the revival of Breton have argued that one of the main barriers for the development of the language is Article 2 of the French Constitution, which states that French is the only language of the French Republic and cannot be changed. However the French Constitution can and has been modified in the past and campaigners say that Article 2 is no exception to this rule. France remains therefore one of the few European Union member states that has not ratified European Charter for Regional and Minority Language, which was designed to protect the regional and minority languages of Europe.
If the proposed ‘Regional’ Language Bill is passed in France it will be a significant step forward for the Breton language and give speakers linguistic rights that until now can only be dreamed of.
Développement des langues et cultures régionales
CNN News Report
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
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